Persistence, Memory, Time

Have you ever met someone who makes you question everything you’ve ever wanted?

Hazel met Andy at a party on an 84 degree night when she was 23 years old. She showed up 45 minutes late on purpose, and the living room was already full of people. A single AC unit hummed from the window, not working fast enough to subdue the thick, humid air. Before she could spend too long searching for him, Andy broke through the crowd, extending his arms with a wide smile. 

“I’ve been waiting my entire life to meet you,” he exclaimed. 

“Sorry, my train was late.” 

He laughed so loud that two people turned around. 

Hazel compared real-life Andy to the few outdated photos she had scoured from his Facebook page. He had auburn hair, thick eyebrows, and crooked front teeth. His outfit consisted of skinny jeans and a Rage Against the Machine T-shirt. He wasn’t unattractive but not quite attractive either. 

“How did you even recognize me?” she asked. They hadn’t added each other on social media, despite her lurking. 

“Let’s not pretend we didn’t stalk each other online.” 

“Oh no, I just stalked you the old fashioned way. Followed you home and shit.”

“That’s awkward because I was following you home.” 

“No wonder we wandered around the block for three hours.” 

They grinned at each other.

Hazel had recently moved to the city, so a mutual friend had connected her with Andy. The week leading up to the party, they texted here and there, sharing lengthy paragraphs about their obsessions—he was into acting, and she was into photography. Then their conversations plunged into musings about human rights, climate change, and the perils of late-stage capitalism. You know, small talk. Because their text messages covered an expanse of topics, she was nervous there would be nothing left to say in person. Instead, they talked non-stop on the couch for hours.

“Who do you think knows you best?” Hazel asked after three vodka cranberries.

“Hmmm good question.” He took a sip of his Twisted Tea. 

“Who knows me best? Probably my friend Chris from high school. Who knows the most facts about me? My most recent ex.” 

“Isn’t it weird that exes are just strangers walking around with all your secrets?” 

“God, yes. Break ups should come with a memory wipe.” 

Hazel wanted to ask Andy what kinds of things he’d erase, but that seemed intrusive, so she simply said, “Relatable.” 

Something in his face changed. They were sitting six inches apart. If she moved her knee just slightly, it would be resting on his. 

“Are you dating anyone, by the way?” he asked. 

She sat up, swiveling her knees away from him. 

“Uh, yeah. I have a boyfriend.” She bit the inside of her cheek. 

She didn’t have a boyfriend. 

“You don’t have a boyfriend,” Andy said to Hazel. They were at a coffee shop two weeks after the party. They had both ordered iced mochas, the empty glasses of ice now melting in front of them. 

“Why do you say that?” 

He held up his phone. “You’re on Tinder. And I don’t peg you as a cheater.”

“That’s giving me a lot of credit.” 

“Well, am I right?” 

Hazel tried to decipher his expression. He stared at her evenly, his eyebrows creating a crease on his forehead. 

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have lied. I didn’t mean to assume anything. I just—I don’t have a lot of friends right now.” 

Instead of being upset, like she had expected, he smiled. “I get it. I’d still like to be your friend, if that’s okay.” 

She felt relieved, but Hazel wondered if she had misinterpreted his intent when he asked if she was dating someone. She knew it was selfish, but part of her almost wanted Andy to show his disappointment. “Thank you.”

“But I am curious.” He pointed to her phone. “What brings you to online dating?” 

“I say I’m looking for something casual. But I chicken out before meeting up with anyone. Honestly it’s just been nice to have people to talk to.” 

His face softened. “I assume it’s a little lonely, being new to a city.” 


“Do you think you’d ever use Tinder to go on dates?” 

“I probably should.” She looked down at her cup. “But I don’t really want to. My last relationship was…messy.” 

“Do you want to talk about it?” 

Hazel started picking at her nail polish with her thumb. She didn’t tell many people about this. “I dated a guy during the last two years of college. But then I found out he wasn’t two years older than me, like he said. He was eight years older.” 

Andy’s jaw dropped. “So if you started dating at 20, he was…” 

She scraped a chunk of magenta off her pointer finger. “28. He was 30 when I found out.” 

“Oh my God. I’m so sorry.” 

“It gets worse.” Her throat tightened. Nail polish crumbs were piling up on the table. “After I knew the truth, I stayed with him.” 


“I know. It was insanely stupid of me.” 

“You’re not stupid.” 

She shook her head. Three nails on her right hand were bare now. “It should have been obvious he was hiding something. He never let me meet his friends. No one from school seemed to know him. There were weird pop culture gaps. And I just chose to ignore everything.” 

“You chose to trust him because we trust the people we love.” His voice was unfairly gentle. His hands were wrapped around his empty glass. She felt an impulse to take one of them and squeeze it, so she put her hands in her lap. 

“Still doesn’t change the fact that I had no respect for myself.” 

“You were young. And he was a grown man taking advantage of you. That’s not on you.”

“But it was on me when I stayed.” 

“You were confronted with an impossible situation. At that point, it’s easier to lean into the lie, rather than admit a two year relationship is going down the drain, right?”

The espresso machine whirred behind her. “But I don’t know if I can trust anyone ever again. I don’t know if I can trust myself ever again.” 

Andy was quiet for a moment. He removed a hand from his glass to stir the remnants of ice. 

“I know what you mean.” He didn’t elaborate. 

Hazel started hanging out with Andy every weekend. She was occasionally meeting new people, but progress seemed slow. With Andy, it was easy to slip into the roles of old friends. One day they visited the Museum of Modern Art, and she was feeling particularly in sync with him. They walked at the same pace, reading the descriptions of the art and discussing pieces that stuck out to them. It was Hazel’s first time at the museum. 

“Do you want to grab food after this?” she asked him as they ambled through the Surrealist exhibit. 

He grinned, flashing his crooked front teeth. “I had food before this, but I can always eat again.” 

“Cool. Does pizza sound good?” 

“I’m good with whatever you want.” 

A voice interrupted them: “Andy?” 

It was a girl with curtain bangs and pin-straight brown hair. She wore almost no makeup and had a nose piercing. It was a style Hazel could never pull off—her short black hair was too curly, and her nose was the wrong shape for a piercing. Hazel did notice the girl’s eyes were a bit wide-set, although she was still pretty. 

“Katie!” Andy’s voice was off key. “It’s been so long.” 

A smile stretched across her cheeks, but there was an incongruous intensity in her eyes.

“It’s been too long. What are you doing here?” 

“Just looking at art, as people do.” He turned. “This is my friend Hazel.” 

“Nice to meet you,” Hazel said. 

Katie’s eyes flashed to her. “You too,” she responded before aiming her attention back at Andy. “Do you want to get lunch sometime and catch up?” 

His smile dropped at the corners before picking up again. “Sure.” 

“I’ll text you. It was so nice to see you.”

She stepped forward and hugged him. He stiffly patted her on the back, while Hazel caught Katie holding on for a second too long. She let herself wonder what it would be like to hug Andy. Where exactly her head would rest on his shoulder. How warm he would feel. He would probably give her an extra squeeze, rather than an awkward pat, though. After they separated, Katie walked away without another word. 

Andy rubbed his arm. “That was my ex.” 

“I kind of figured.” 

“I don’t know why I did that. I don’t want to get lunch with her.” 

“Then why did you say yes?” 

He shrugged. “I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.” 

“You don’t have to hang out with her if you don’t want to.” 

“I know. Being an actor makes it easy to say yes when I don’t mean it, I guess.” 

As they continued through the museum, Hazel felt uneasy. What if he was acting around her, telling her what she wanted to hear? She thought Andy intrinsically understood her, but maybe he just didn’t have it in himself to disagree. Did he even want to get pizza later? They stopped in front of The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí. In an art class in college, Hazel had studied the melting clocks, the dream-like landscape. Her teacher discussed how Dalí played with time and permanence, the fine line between reality and the imaginary. 

“This one’s my favorite,” she said. 

“Me too.” Andy’s voice was barely a whisper. 

Andy: So seeing Katie at the museum kind of messed me up 

Hazel: Oh no, are you okay? 

Andy: Idk. I’ve been ignoring her texts about lunch. She always does this. We don’t talk for awhile but she sucks me back in when she wants attention 

Hazel: I’m sorry. I know how hard that can be. I think shutting this lunch thing down would show her she can’t just use you whenever she wants 

Andy: It’s not that simple. I want to, but I’m terrified to tell her no. She’s super pushy, and it’s like I completely lose myself around her

Hazel: Trust me, I’ve been there. The only way to get her to leave you alone is to set firm boundaries. Eventually she’ll give up, and you’ll thank yourself for it 

Andy: Blah. I know you’re right. Thank you. I don’t know anyone else I can talk to about this. My other friends don’t understand why I let her walk all over me 

Hazel: The help has gone both ways. I don’t know what I’d do without you 

Andy: God, we’re gross 

Hazel: SO gross 

Hazel: Howdy 

Andy: New phone, who dis? 

Hazel: The police! 

Andy: Shit I guess the FBI finally read my text messages 

Hazel: Do you have advice on making friends in this huge ass city? 

Andy: I think being open to people and new experiences. Example, you were open with me, and now we’re close right? 

Hazel: But it’s different with you. Other people would think I’m a weirdo for spilling my guts to them 

Andy: What if I told you I was only so open with you because you were with me? 

Hazel: Really? I thought you were like that with everyone 

Andy: Sure, I prefer to skip the small talk, but I usually play off people’s energy. It’s different with each person 

Hazel: That’s funny because I was playing off YOUR energy 

Andy: Lol that probably explains why I feel the most like myself around you 

Hazel: Same here 

Andy: Fuck 

Hazel: You okay? 

Andy: I tried to tell Katie I don’t want to meet up and now she’s going off on me 

Hazel: I’m so sorry. Try to ignore her if you can. You don’t owe her anything 

Andy: I hate upsetting people. I can’t do this 

Hazel: You can do this. I promise 

Andy: I don’t know. I’m falling apart. This is bringing up a lot of awful feelings from the past. 

Hazel: What kind of feelings? Do you want me to call you? I’m here 

Andy: No, I have to go. I’m sorry. 

Hazel had a small gang of friends now that included Andy. One time they went to the bar together. After the rest of the group left, Hazel stopped by Andy’s apartment to eat pizza on his couch. 

She glanced at her phone. It was 1:50 a.m. “Shit. It’s late.” 

“You’re welcome to sleep on the couch if Ubers are too expensive.” 

Andy’s face was open, earnest. It was so kind of him. But she couldn’t do that. “No, that’s okay. I’ll call an Uber soon. Thanks.” 

She curled into the corner of the couch, and he threw on Family Feud. They tried to play along, but they were very bad because they were very drunk. Her eyelids were heavy. She told herself she should call the Uber, but she just needed a minute. 

“Hazel?” Andy’s voice sounded far away. At some point she had closed her eyes. 


“Do you ever think about us?” 

“What do you mean?” 

She waited for his answer. She tried to listen. But she had already fallen asleep. In her dreams, Andy was still by her side. They were laying in bed with their arms wrapped around each other. Her head rested on his chest. They didn’t have clothes on. But they weren’t a couple in the dream. Friends just did those kinds of things. 

Hazel woke up alone on the couch. It was 6:37 a.m. She discovered Andy had draped a blanket over her. It was a green quilt with frayed edges. She got up, folded it, and checked the train schedule. As she was tugging her shoes on, she accidentally knocked an empty glass over. Andy opened his bedroom door, rubbing his eyes. 

“Are you leaving?” 

“Yeah. Sorry for falling asleep here.” 

“It’s so early. You can sleep here a couple more hours. It’s okay.”

“I’m sorry. I should go home.” 

She opened the front door and slipped out, but not before seeing the broken expression on his face. She closed it, knowing he wasn’t going to stop her. 

Andy and Hazel were walking in Central Park. It was a hot day, late into the summer. The sun beat down on them, and sweat pooled on Hazel’s lower back. 

As they traveled down the pathway, Hazel said, “I’m going on a Tinder date next week.” 

Andy paused. “Are you excited?” 

“Not really.” She forced a laugh. “We don’t have much in common, but it would be rude to say no when we’ve been texting for two weeks.” 

After that he was quiet. Hazel tried rekindling the conversation a few times, until she decided to confront Andy’s distance. 

“Did I say something wrong?” 

“No, of course not.” 

“Are you sure?” 

“Yeah. I’m okay.” 

“Does it bother you? Me going on a date.” 

“If that’s what you want, I support you.” 

“But I want you to tell me what you want.” 

Andy’s mouth twisted into a frown. The sweat on his forehead was seeping into his hair. “Can we sit for a sec?” 

“Of course.” 

They entered a small field. The ground was covered in clumps of dry grass—it hadn’t rained in a week. Weeds grew here and there. Some birds chirped in the distance. They were in the less touristy part of the park, so no one was around. 

They laid down on their backs, a foot apart. The blue sky was blinding. They were both covered in sweat, but Andy’s face was particularly shiny as his chin trembled. Hazel had never seen him look so fragile. She imagined him melting into the earth, his limbs becoming gooey like candle wax. The thought filled her with dread. 

Finally he spoke.

“I can’t just tell you what I want.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m a fucked up person.” 

“I don’t think you’re fucked up.” 

They laid in silence for another moment. Hazel could hear Andy’s jagged breath next to her. 

After a while, in a quiet voice, he said, “When I was a kid my parents signed me up with this children’s theater troupe. It was a lot of fun, until one of the teachers started giving me one-on-one lessons after rehearsal.” 

She stopped breathing, fearing the worst. Please, not Andy. She couldn’t bear the thought of him carrying this kind of trauma. 

He turned towards her, reading her mind. “She didn’t touch me or anything like that. She wanted me to pretend to be her son.” 

She exhaled. “That’s…odd.” 

“Yeah. It was fine at first—just playing house as any kid would do. But then she got…intense about it.” 

“How intense?” 

He squeezed his eyes shut. “It’s hard to explain. The memories are in jumbled fragments, and there are gaps I can’t remember.” 

Hazel propped herself up on her elbows. Andy was shaking, his hair now slick with sweat. She felt an urge to put her hand on his arm. That seemed more comforting than any words she could come up with. But she couldn’t touch him. 

“Sometimes she would cry when I wasn’t acting how a ‘good boy’ should,” he continued. “Other times she would scream at me, call me names. She emphasized that she wasn’t really crying or yelling at me. It was acting. And I was so desperate to play the part perfectly—the son who was never good enough.” 

“What kind of sick person treats a kid that way?” 

He shook his head. “I wish I knew. It went on for a year until I begged my Mom to quit. I never told her why. I didn’t realize until years later how messed up it was. I think I hate myself the most for that.”

So badly, she wanted to run her fingers in soothing patterns down his arm. However, all she could do was say, “I wish I had the words to tell you how sorry I am. Just know it’s not your fault.” 

“Thank you. It means a lot to have you listen.” 

Then she asked a question that she already knew the answer to. “Have you told anyone else about this?” 


“I promise I won’t tell anyone.” 

“I know.” 

They laid in silence for a few minutes. 

Andy spoke again. “It doesn’t bother me that you’re going on a date, by the way. It’s that you’re going on a date with someone you’re not even interested in.” 

Hazel was stunned. “I was trying to be more open.” 

“It’s not open if you’ve made up your mind but you can’t be honest about how you actually feel.” 

Andy: Katie texted me after a month of radio silence 

Hazel: Oh? What did you say? 

Andy: Let’s talk about it in person 

Hazel: Sure, maybe at my party tonight? 

Andy: Who said I’m coming to that? 

Hazel: Who said you were invited? 

Andy: Fine, I guess I’ll have to break and enter! 

Hazel: Lol see ya later loser 🙂 

Hazel finally had enough close friends to throw parties. Andy showed up 10 minutes late with a bottle of wine—he was one of the first people there. They didn’t chat long before she was pulled away to greet other guests. She cascaded from one conversation to the next as people arrived.

However, sometimes as she scanned the room, Andy’s eyes would find hers and their mouths would tilt upwards—a secret code for soon

After the party had settled into a rhythm, she made her way over to him. 


He grinned. “Hey.” 

“Do you want to go smoke?” 


They left the apartment, climbing up a rickety ladder at the end of the hallway. At the top was a hatch with a large red sign: “NO TRESPASSING: Alarm will sound.” But Hazel knew the alarm was broken or didn’t exist. They opened the hatch and hoisted themselves onto the sloping, bumpy rooftop, covered in graffiti. It was dark, but a maze of windows, lampposts, and headlights glowed beneath them. 

They sat down a foot away from the roof’s edge. Hazel plucked the joint from her pocket. She lit the end and took a hit, feeling a hum in her chest. They exchanged it a few times before she spoke. 

“So what happened with Katie?” 

“The usual string of insults.” Andy passed the joint to her. “She told me you’re a bad influence.” 

She laughed. “Because I said to stop talking to her.” 

“Yeah. And I think she’s jealous.” 

“Why would she be jealous?” 

He looked away. “You know why.” 

She did. She took a few long pulls, watching the smoke cloud her view of the Manhattan skyline peeking between the buildings in front of them. 

“What did you say to her?” 

“I told her to never talk to me again.” 

You did?” 

“You encouraged me to say what I really wanted, so I did.” 

Her mind was overflowing with words, but only two bubbled to the surface: “That’s great.” 

She handed him the joint. He inhaled, blowing out a few concentrated plumes before stubbing it out, smearing the black ash next to his foot. A buzzing traveled from her head to her fingertips. The high had set in.

“How was your date last week?” he asked. 

“I canceled it.” 

“Oh—” Andy sucked in his breath too quickly and started coughing. He cleared his throat. “Sorry. Um, why did you do that?” 

“You were right. I’d already made up my mind on how I felt.” 

“But I still don’t understand. Why did you say yes in the first place?” 

“I…I don’t know.” 

“When we met you said you weren’t in a place to date.” 

“It wasn’t a lie,” she said quickly, defensive. 

Andy met her gaze, his shoulders gravitating towards her. His eyes glimmered with emotions she was terrified to acknowledge. “Did things change?” 

Hazel thought about her words carefully, but she wasn’t sure if she was going to make any sense. “I think we’re really alike. We’re both afraid to speak up for ourselves. Like, you with Katie. And how I set up that date, but I wanted…” Something in her throat snagged. 

“You wanted what?” 

Hazel couldn’t speak. Her cheeks were hot. 

“Are you upset?” he asked. 

Tears smudged the corners of her vision. She blinked hard. “No.” 

“I’m sorry.” The urgency in his voice dissolved. “Please, Hazel. Don’t cry.” 

“No, I’m sorry.” She wiped her eyes with her sleeve. “I’m a mess.” 

“I never want to upset you.” 

Andy’s face was so close to hers now. Closer than it ever had been before. She couldn’t believe how beautiful he was. The way his auburn hair complimented his green eyes, how emotive his eyebrows were when he told a joke—even his crooked teeth were so overwhelmingly endearing. 

“You don’t upset me. You just make me feel…I don’t know. Alive. Like I’m fully, truly present with myself. But—” 

“You’re scared.” 

She nodded. 

A wobbly smile extended across his face. “I feel the same way, you know?” 

“But, Andy.” 


Hazel opened her mouth and closed it before she leaned over and pressed her shoulder into his, allowing herself to remember how good it felt to be loved.

Kelly Dasta

Kelly Dasta resides in Brooklyn, working in marketing at a book publisher. Her work has been published in The Blotter Magazine, Drizzle Review, and Coal Hill Review. She holds a B.A. in English Writing and Communications from the University of Pittsburgh. Besides writing, her many passions include reading, traveling, pop punk music, and finding the best independent coffee shops in NYC. You can follow her on Twitter @KellyDasta.

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